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Underlying all the disputes and treaties between native Americans and Europeans was the need for an understanding of what the groups were saying to each other. Translation was the common denominator throughout the numerous interactions between native tribes in America and colonists coming over from Europe. In colonial America, translators were crucial to establishing relationships between native Americans and the Europeans that came to North America to create colonies. These interpreters operated in the in-between of two different cultures and they needed to be knowledgeable enough about both of them to correctly convey meaning to either side. It was also a space that many women occupied. Who were these women? How did they come to be translators and why were they chosen? The answer is different and varied for every native American tribe and every native American person. This paper will look at three different women from three different tribes to analyze the differences and similarities between native American translators and the significance of them. The women looked at in this paper are Thanadelthur, a translator for the Hudson River Company, Mary Musgrove from the Creek nation, and Madame Montour, a Métis woman from Canada. In this paper, I argue that the women who worked as translators were able to harness a unique power and authority within both their cultures despite the limitations their gender placed on them. This power was finite and entirely dependent on how the women were viewed within their respective tribes. The role of interpreter also required a certain amount of privileges, namely education and familial connection.


Undergraduate Research Awards - 2021 Winner, FY/Sophomore category

Clarkson - Essay.pdf (510 kB)
Award Entry Essay

Faith_Clarkson_2021_interview.pdf (178 kB)